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Project improves lighting, efficiency of federal courthouse

John Seelmeyer

It only looks like Dean Mansfield oversees the installation of lighting in a courtroom.

In fact, Mansfield is lighting the stages where real-life drama plays out

every day as he works with Reno and Sparks contractors and suppliers on a

project that will save taxpayers at least 80 percent of what they(1)ve been

paying to light courtrooms at the U.S. Federal Courthouse in downtown Reno.

Once crews from general contractor DLO&M and its subcontractor,

Intermountain Electric Inc., a Denver-based company with a regional office

in Reno, are completed with their work, each of the six courtrooms will be

lighted as carefully as a theater, says Mansfield, an assistant property

manager for the federal General Services Administration.

Spotlights subtly highlight the witness chairs and the lectern where

attorneys stand. The lighting above the judges(1) chairs and above the

attorneys(1) tables allows them to work without eyestrain < and the judges can

adjust the lighting to meet their personal preferences.

Bulb Daddy, a Sparks wholesaler of lighting systems, is providing the LED

technology at the heart of the project and acting as an advisor.

The quality of lighting rather than the potential for conservation and

savings initially drove the project in the 10-story, 216,000-square-foot

building at Virginia and Liberty streets.

Brett Jacobus, a project manager with general contractor DLO&M, explains

that the General Services Agency sets standards for lighting in federal

courtrooms.

Routine tests of the courtrooms in Reno two years ago found the lighting was

insufficient.

And the more that Mansfield and Jacobus looked at lighting throughout the

building, the more they found to dislike.

The metal halide lighting installed when the building was completed in 1996

takes forever to warm up < wasting money in the process < and generates

inconsistent colors of light from one fixture to the next.

And metal halide is expensive to operate in comparison with highly efficient

LED systems that are pouring into the market, says Joe Kedzierski, one of

the owners of Bulb Daddy.

The big savings come from reduced power consumption, but Mansfield says the

costs of cooling the building also are expected to drop because the new LED

lights, unlike metal halide systems, don(1)t generate much heat.

And maintenance costs may dip because the LED lights are longer-lived than

earlier technology.

The current phase of the work involves replacement of 146 wall sconces for

courtrooms and walkways, 30 pendant lights for installation in courtrooms,

48 down lights for courtrooms and 17 well lights for exterior applications.

With a price tag of about $100,000, Jacobus says the lighting project is

expected to pay for itself through reduced electric consumption in about

five years. The payback period could be even shorter if NV Energy approves

energy-conservation rebates.

Already, Mansfield and Jacobus say judges and other workers in the building

have seen some unexpected improvement from the new lighting.

Security officers, for instance, say the LED lighting allows their cameras

and monitors to deliver far clearer images than they saw in the past.